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How Much Cell Phone Coverage Does Yellowstone Need?

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    Should you be able to gab on your cell phone no matter where in Yellowstone you are? Do you need WiFi coverage in the park's lodges and restaurants? Those are tough questions for some, no brainers for others.
    In the coming weeks, Yellowstone officials will be seeking public comment into those questions with meetings in Idaho Falls, Idaho, (tonight at the Best Western Cotton Tree Inn from 6 to 8), in Bozeman, Montana, (tomorrow night at the Comfort Inn, same time), and in Cody, Wyoming, (August 15th at the Park County Courthouse, same time). Written comments will be accepted through August 31st via mail, in person, or at this web site.
    The friendly folks at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility are convinced Yellowstone Superintendent Suzanne Lewis already has made up her mind on this issue, and will side with more cell phone and wireless coverage in the park.
    I'm curious to learn how many folks out there think this is a good idea?
 
 

    As I noted earlier this month, more cell-phone access could lead to more reductions in the ranks of park rangers and the national park experience itself, as Park Service officials in Washington looking to cut costs team with private interests to provide interpretation via cell phone.
    Too, there's always the issue of solitude, which long has been a hallmark of national parks. Many folks think cell-phone use in this country is becoming incredibly rude. Some restaurants ban it, most theaters do, and there are concerns that one day soon you'll be able to talk your head off from take-off to landing on your cross-country airline flight. Do we need it in a park's backcountry?
    On top of that, you could argue that cell phones and WiFi access will detract from a national park visit by serving as distractions. We already worry that our younger generations are becoming more and more detached from nature, and if we give kids more electronic devices to occupy themselves with during a national park trip, what will we have accomplished in trying to reverse this disconcerting trend?
    Two-thirds of Yellowstone already is covered by cell phone towers. Do we need more?
    Take a stand on this issue folks. As the saying goes, those who show up make the rules. If it can be done in Yellowstone, what national park will be able to keep out 100 percent cell phone and WiFi coverage?

   

Comments

HEY! I'm all for "Old Faithful, brought to you by Verizon" as long as it means more funding for the park! To all those tree-huggies and greenies who are technology challenged, get over yourselves...cell phones are here to stay...how about a little "tolerance" and "diversity" for other points of view, libbies??

With the cost of satellite phones (either via rental or purchase) affordable to most anyone who wants to get one, the debate over cellphone towers is a somewhat moot point. Delaying the introduction of cell towers to national parks is a temporary fix, one which those rude enough to yak on their phones will eventually overcome.

I sit and wonder if there was such public outrage when radio communications were first introduced into the park system. Certainly there was a percieved need for safety and security. Is the general public aware that the Parks have recently spent millions of dollars to upgrade radio communications with narrow band digital systems resulting in reduced coverage? This upgrade was necessary to allow more bandwidth for cell phone service. Belive it or not there are parks who are onboard and utilize cell technology because it is more reliable and capable in many situations. To give JLongstreet plenty of credit the Superintendents get paid to make resonable decisions concerning impacts and the use of technology. For the most part they do a great job and I think most focus on the Park Service mission rather than Public Opinion....but there are some.

I sit and wonder if there was such public outrage when radio communications were first introduced into the park system. Certainly there was a percieved need for safety and security. Is the general public aware that the Parks have recently spent millions of dollars to upgrade radio communications with narrow band digital systems resulting in reduced coverage? This upgrade was necessary to allow more bandwidth for cell phone service. Belive it or not there are parks who are onboard and utilize cell technology because it is more reliable and capable in many situations. To give JLongstreet plenty of credit the Superintendents get paid to make resonable decisions concerning impacts and the use of technology. For the most part they do a great job and I think most focus on the Park Service mission rather than Public Opinion....but there are some.

My wife and I did a 6-week tour of Natinonal Parks earlier this summer. I felt the need for my cell phone exactly once, when I wanted to call my father on Father's Day. However I found myself craving wi-fi access about twice a week. I was sort of surprised that none of the lodges at Yellowstone didn't have wi-fi, while Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton had it in the lobby. The accessibility for wi-fi, for us, was a godsend, considering we used it for research on where to go next, finding info on cabin & campground lodging from park to park, weather info to determine where our next stop should be, driving directions, etc. I agree that wi-fi service doesn't detract from the parks. Maybe some people would have a problem with walking into the main lobby at Jackson Lake Lodge and seeing a dozen people with their laptops out, but I didn't. I had a much bigger problem hiking up Signal Mountain in Grand Teton and, getting to top, overhearing four loud conversations from people on their cell phones. (There's a cell tower on the top of Signal Mountain, so I think most of the cars at the top were people who drove up just so they could get service.)

I think that Wi-Fi access in buildings is a great idea, and can't imagine why anyone would have a problem with it if it is privately funded. If you don't want to check your e-mail while staying in a National Park lodge, you don't have to. Just because someone might be an internet-addict doesn't mean that the National Park Service should take responsibility for weaning that person off computers during a visit to Yellowstone. As for cell phones, I think the real question should be whether or not we should permit cell phone towers to be constructed at the edges of designated wilderness areas (they are prohibited within those areas), with the intent of providing service coverage into those areas. The truth of the matter is that there is no single standard for what constitutes preservation of a "natural" space. The natural spaces of Yellowstone have already been corrupted in the minds of some by the construction of lodges and paved roads. Thus, I think a reasonable standard is to permit cell phone coverage in "developed Parks" and to consider ensuring that designated wilderness areas, such as North Cascades National Park, remain cell phone free. ~Sabattis

Preservation of the resource (which includes the "viewshed") is part and parcel of the National Park Service's mission. That should mean that foreign objects, like cell phone towers, have no place within a given park's boundaries. What's next, a new name for Yellowstone? Perhaps Verizon Geyser National Park?

Future jury trial: Backpacker gets into trouble in the area of Yellowstone without cell phone coverage. He is eventually rescued but the delay in rescue means that he suffers more serious injuries than he would have with better communications. Backpacker sues. The case goes to a jury. Jury hears that Yellowstone rejected better cell phone coverage even though it could have been installed. Would the Park Service be found liable? With todays runaway jury awards, it's something the Park Service has to think about. Will the Park Service have to post signs in the backcountry saying that "from Point A to Point B there is no cell phone service, so BEWARE". More issues are created than just aesthetic ones.

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